Chris King, Vineyard Manager
Chris’s interest in winemaking began with a simple wine kit. While he calls the first batch of wine he made only “entirely tolerable,” he fell in love with the processes. After college he was fortunate to become the assistant winemaker at Castel Grisch Winery, where he spent about half of his time in the winery and half in the vineyard, and there, he realized he loved the growing process even more.
His first vineyard management position was with Standing Stone Winery, where he worked with exceptional consultants. He next moved to Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards where he helped to install and refine techniques for managing some of the first Scott Henry trellis systems in the Finger Lakes, which are now commonly used in many premium wine grape vineyards. His next position was at Sawmill Creek Vineyards, one of the premier sites in the Finger Lakes, where he was responsible for running the trellis and canopy management team.
From there, Chris was hired to manage Knapp Vineyards. Over ten years, in addition to managing Knapp, his responsibilities grew to include Varick Winery, Welliver Vineyards, and Chateau Lafayette Reneau. In all, he was responsible for approximately 120 acres of vineyards. His final stop before Atwater was Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards and Standing Stone Vineyards. As Director of Vineyard Operations, he oversaw 140 acres spread across both sides of Seneca Lake and five sites. At Atwater, he is excited to
returning to a hands-on approach to growing super premium grapes on one of the most exceptional sites in the Finger Lakes were it is a privilege to work at such a beautiful site with the potential to grow amazing fruit and gratifying to set up vineyards like these for the future so that they can continue to thrive.
His grape growing philosophy centers on balanced vines and balanced vineyards, which he believes is the foundation for crafting the highest quality wines. Chris focuses on thorough and thoughtful canopy management and efficiency with a goal to balance perfectionism and a minimalist philosophy. He evaluates each input is evaluated for its merits and cost from both an economic and environmental standpoint. Being a good steward of the land is foundational to being an excellent grape grower.
As a native of the Finger Lakes, Chris has taken great pleasure in watching our area develop into a world-class wine growing region, and he looks forward to being part of the continued growth and success of our industry. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and they currently live their two sons in Hector on fifty acres off-the-grid surrounded by Finger Lakes National Forest. They have two dogs, a cat, a horse,
chickens, and honeybees.
So far this year, disease control has been a constant battle. The fruit looks good, but one of the most frustrating and rewarding things about growing grapes in the Finger Lakes is that the conditions can change very quickly. The results can be very exciting or very challenging.
He thinks it is important to realize how many decisions there are to be made during the growing and winemaking process: over 700 decisions are made from start to finish in each vintage. Every year is a little bit different and our choices can make or break the vintage. We’re lucky Chris is heading our vineyard team to bring his wisdom to those decisions.
One of Chris’s favorite Atwater wines is the Pinot Noir. It is elegant and expressive just like all Finger Lakes wine should be.
Vinny began making wine in the Finger Lakes with the 2000 vintage; in 2001, he became a winemaker at Atwater where he has headed our winemaking operations since 2003. Vinny’s style is often described as crisp and fruit-driven with a focus on creating intense but balanced wines. His dynamic approach has earned him praise both locally and nationally, including several write-ups in The Wine Spectator and New York Cork Report.
Reflecting on the harvest, Vinny explained that with each new vintage comes the excitement and anxiety of the harvest. “We are still a week or two behind thanks to a late start back in the spring and a relatively mild summer. But as is the case in most years, September weather was critically important in shaping the course of the vintage. For the most part we received a good dose of sunshine with below average rainfall. Now that we are into October and grapes like Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have been harvested, we turn our gaze to Blaufränkisch and Merlot, and hope the weather continues to stay clear and bright as we head into the second half of the 2019 vintage.”
“This season's main challenge is getting the grapes into the ripeness ‘window’ before they begin to breakdown. Fortunately, most of the grapes still hanging are looking strong but as ripening continues, they also become more vulnerable to disease pressure. We plan to continue monitoring the grapes closely out in the vineyards through sampling and visual inspections and of course we'll be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast!”
“Atwater fans may be surprised to know that the wine quality depends on both the subtle and profound differences of each harvest season. Many factors contribute in shaping how the wines will eventually taste. While we all know the weather is a big factor, grape yields, size and integrity of the grapes as well as grape chemistry including sugars, acids and pH all contribute to the final product.”
“Wine production is truly a team effort that starts in the vineyard, winds its way into the cellar, and pops out on the shelf or dinner table. It takes many dedicated people to bring a quality product to fruition and I am fortunate to be part of our competent and hard-working staff here at Atwater who take pride in bringing wines to life.”
When asked his favorite Atwater wine, he responded that “the skin-fermented Gewürztraminer/Chardonnay with spicy Thai food is divine.”
Vinny’s hobbies include running, reading, sailing and cross-country skiing. In 2006, he and his wife, Kim, and embarked on our their wine journey (with Atwater's blessing) when they founded Billsboro Winery in Geneva, NY, 2016 winner of the NY Wine & Food Classic Governor's Cup for its 2015 Syrah.
Be sure to tune in to our LIVE webcam to watch the seasons change.
Harvest 2019 began on September 24, with staff from the tasting room and office joining the winemakers and vineyard crew to hand-pick an acre of Grüner Veltliner. The vines were planted three years ago, and this was their inaugural harvest. Grüner Veltliner translates to “Green Wine of Veltlin” and is a white wine grape variety grown primarily in Austria. The flavor profile is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Blanc. We look forward to seeing what Vinny and George do with this new to us varietal.
Follow our harvest progress on Instagram and Facebook.
Since the first pick, we've been harvesting steadily, and the fruit quality is good though a little on the light side of our estimated tonage. Climate is one of the most critical aspects in ripening fruit to achieve optimum characteristics in a wine style. With warm days and cool nights the weather this year so far has been beneficial for the crop. We expect harvest to go non-stop until the middle of October as grapes are still ripening on the vine.
As winemaker Vinny Aliperti notes, "Wine production is truly a team effort that starts in the vineyard winds its way into the cellar and pops out on the shelf or dinner table. It takes many dedicated people to bring a quality product to fruition." This collaboration is especially critical during harvest as grapes move from the field to press deck and cellar. To harvest grapes at optimal ripeness, the vineyard staff and winemakers assess the grapes’ acidity and sugar level.
Pictured: A gorgeous cluster of Chardonnay.
As soon as we harvest grapes, they move to the press deck where the winemakers process them according to the wine style. With new grapes arriving on a regular basis, they are putting in long days and working weekends to ensure the best tasting wine for our customers.
Pictured: Chris delivers Grüner Veltliner grapes to Vinny on the press deck.
Pinot Noir, one of the early harvested grapes, spent time in bins fermenting and was pressed last week. Vinny and George just moved it to barrels. A separate portion of the juice will also be transformed into Rosé of Pinot Noir which will be carbonated and bottled in the spring as our very popular Bubble Pinot Noir Rosé.
Pictured: George punches down the cap on pinot noir. Carbon dioxide bubbles (released during fermentation) push the grapes, stems, seeds, and clusters to the top of the bins forming a thick cap. Those grapes, stems, and seeds have a lot of magic in them so they need to be mixed back into the juice that sits below to increase skin-to-juice contact and improve flavor, color, tannin, and aroma. This is done twice per day for about 10 days and takes strength as well as balance.
Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot 2016 has a beautiful ruby color and lightly smoky aroma that gives way to ripe red berry jam and plum flavors while a smooth finish provides hints of bittersweet cocoa. We recommend pairing with char-grilled steaks, braised roasts, or grilled vegetables.
End of Vintage, Last Call!
Be sure to grab these wines before they're gone.
Big Blend 2015 (SOLD OUT)
Chardonnay 2015 (SOLD OUT)
Navone Vineyards Riesling 2015
90 points, Editors' Choice
Aromas of candied lemon peel, yellow blossoms and a slightly savory note translate to the medium-bodied palate. This is lightweight and delicate in feel, with a well-honed mineral edge guiding the mix of citrus and white-fruit flavors on the lingering finish.
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FROM THE TASTING ROOM
You know it's fall when Amanda breaks out the mulled wine kits and glass mugs for warm and steaming Mulled Wine. Perfect for the cooler seasons, our Mandy’s Mulled Wine Kit contains one bottle Sweet Chancellor, one bottle Sweet Catawba, spice bag, and recipe.
Be sure to tune in to our LIVE webcam and watch "Mr. Pinot"
go about the hard work of scaring away hungry birds.
For the second year in a row, the Finger Lakes was named the “Best Wine Region in North America” by voters in USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Poll. A panel of wine industry experts selected the initial nominees, and readers voted for their favorite wine region over a two-week period. We are thankful that visitors to our picturesque region are as enchanted with the area as we are.
September began with perfect weather: sunny yet cool. However, as grapes start to ripen, they become attractive to birds who have voracious appetites for the fruit. We employ several methods to keep winged marauders away from our crop.
Noise-making devices like propane powered bird cannons and squawk boxes are positioned throughout the vineyard. You’ll also see a twisty, turning, inflatable orange dancing man affectionately named "Mr. Pinot" who is mesmerizing and humorous to watch but also effective at scaring birds from the vineyard.
Finally, we painstakingly cover some of the rows with bird netting. The grapes birds seem to like best are the red varieties Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blaufränkisch, and Syrah.
We are about one week behind in growing degree days. While some grape varieties are still going through veraison, others are ripening slowly in the recent cool weather. Towards the end of the month, we expect to begin harvest with Cayuga and Pinot Gris.
We recently received a new 860-gallon stainless-steel red wine fermentation tank from employee-owned Vance Metal.
In business since 1880, they have been a stalwart supporter of the wine industry for decades and have built all our stainless-steel tanks. We’re very excited to put it to use this season!
Here you see Vinny and George with their "Christmas morning" smiles.
We're proud to announce three new releases, perfect for fall weather and cooler temperatures.
Low Inventory Alert!
We are running low on the following wines. Be sure to grab your favorites before they're gone.
Have you seen our new t-shirt design? Monster or myth, the Seneca Sea Serpent is a timeless local legend with roots in the indigenous population. Native Americans believed Seneca Lake was bottomless with a monster that lived in its depths. Seneca Lake is 200 feet below sea level and is connected to the Atlantic via Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Could an ancient ocean–dweller have made it all the way to here?
Atwater apparel is available in the Tasting Room or online.
On September 1, our club members and winemakers, Vinny and George, had a wonderful time at the last Vineyard Table of the season. We celebrated our library wines paired with delicious dishes crafted by the Red Dove Tavern. We appreciate everyone who has joined us for these magical evenings as well as the Atwater and Red Dove staff who made them possible. Please plan on joining us next summer to enjoy delicious food and wine in the heart of our vineyard. Watch our newsletter next spring for the new dates.